Not have an outbreak in the first place!

That was the theme at the recent Fresh Summit 2008 conference, "Food Safety: Keeping Your Business Healthy," where attendees heard from panelists about the latest in regulations and safety initiatives as well as how to consider food safety investments in a return-on-investment perspective.

Bob Whitaker, PMA’s Salinas, Calif.-based chief science officer, said the industry must continue its food safety diligence and try to stay ahead of the curve and anticipate possible future food safety issues.

“I see the industry is demonstrating the will to go forward by having the courage to act and to act now and to get involved in industry food safety activities,” Whitaker said. “And the industry has character to ask what we need to do further to make our programs better.”

Whitaker said the industry is better overall after the outbreaks and said he has noticed many positive changes bubbling under the surface during the past 1½ years. More PMA members, he said, are asking him for technical information.

The industry, Whitaker said, is putting more funding into food safety research and global standards are arising.

“There have been inconsistencies between buyers and suppliers,” Whitaker said. “Often, a supplier that invested heavily in food safety competed in the marketplace with someone who didn’t. What we’re seeing today is an increased awareness on both sides.”